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Congressional Bill to Define Israel as ‘Major Strategic Ally’

By: JTA

A Republican and a Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced on Monday legislation that would make Israel a “major strategic ally,’” a one of a kind designation.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), is timed for this week’s annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, and 13,000 activists are expected to lobby for it and for Iran-related bills on Tuesday.

The “major strategic ally” bill codifies a number of existing facets of the relationship, including annual defense assistance and cooperation on missile defense, energy research and cyber security.

It also calls for Israel to join the program that waives pre-arranged visas for select nationals entering the United States.

The Iran-related bills AIPAC activists will champion would tighten sanctions aimed at forcing that country to suspend its suspected nuclear weapons program and would call for the president to support Israel should it feel “compelled” to strike Iran. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip, told AIPAC, “If there is one lesson we have learned about the Middle East in recent years, it is that nuance is not only not effective but also can be dangerous. We must speak with unambiguous clarity: the United States will not accept a nuclear-weapons-capable Iran.”

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